Category Archives: Architects

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Architect Profile: Sieger Suarez Architectural Partnership

On their official website, the award-winning Sieger Suarez Architectural Partnership is mentioned as being a “quiet giant” in the architectural arena. In considering their colossal influence in areas such as Sunny Isles and South Beach’s SoFi neighborhood, it is hard to disagree. The firm’s presence is “quiet” because it doesn’t have the mass brand recognition of Arquitectonica, Zyscovich, or RVL, but given the 32 year old firm’s vast and excellent portfolio, they are as important if not more so than its counterparts. The Sieger Suarez architectural partnership is a “giant” in the sense that the firm has basically designed Sunny Isles’ most important buildings and South Point’s as well. Jorge Perez, Trump, and Gil and Michael Dezer, the kings of Sunny Isles development, have done a significant amount of business with SSAP. Jorge Perez has taken their influence down to the southernmost tip of the sub-tropical barrier island.

Admittedly, much of their work is on or near the coast. It is not clear whether they specialize in such type of development, but the pattern is obvious. They have recently delved into the urban market on a large scale with 50 Biscayne—as Jorge Perez is clearly comfortable doing business with the firm. SSAP designs are opulent yet modern. Apogee in South Point is probably the most luxurious development designed by SSAP to date. The building is not as massive as other SSAP projects but the level of design intricacy and the uniqueness of the building’s features, such as the moat-like entrance, keep it a notch above the rest. The massive Trump Grande development on Sunny Isles, with its Royale, Palace, and Sonesta International components, was the largest for the agency. However, the project has found its match with the three phase Trump Towers development, also in Sunny Isles, also designed by SSAP. Long before Trump and Michael and Gil Dezer hired the firm, Jorge Perez hired SSAP to design the Related Group’s Ocean I, II, III, and IV projects—each one having a distinct design that is quite different from the former. There is no better hallmark for success than the loyalty of clients. In the case of the Sieger Suarez Architectural Partnership, they have inspired almost unparalleled loyalty among their client developers.

What is interesting about SSAP designs is that three of them (Pinnacle, Hidden Bay, and the Murano Grande) have multiple towers at different height levels on a single base. This multi-tower look is unique to SSAP. The Pinnacle is the best example of this style. Other than that, all designs are rather unique from one another. Unlike other architectural firms that maintain relatively constant design styles, SSAP’s designs demonstrate true versatility. SSAP projects blend in curves with sharp lines. Their designs make use of glass about as well as Revuelta, Vega, and Leon, which in my estimation is arguably the top firm when it comes to incorporating glass. The finest example that SSAP has in terms of blending in glass with concrete and curves with sharp lines is the Trump International Sonesta, which has a cube-like interior glass building seemingly wrapped by a multi-tiered exterior building. The Murano at Portofino is the finest example of curves and glass. The design also incorporates a multi-tiered wrap around design effect.

In so far as building crowns are concerned, SSAP does wonders. Ocean One’s two towers have exceptionally unique protruding parallel tops with matching pyramidal crowns. The firm’s Sayan design has a similar protruding top concept minus the pyramidal crown. The Royale and Palace Crowns are stunning with three vertical curved sail-like white columns rising into the sky. The Portofino Tower at South Point has a combination fan-like crown with multiple pyramids. Continuum One has a fan-like crown. The Murano Grande’s crown resembles Il Villagio with its steel curved panels. 50 Biscayne has a unique t-shaped crown similar to Jade on the Bay minus the steel. But, what is clear is that SSAP has a wide array of standout crown designs that provide a total finish to the firm’s design masterpieces.

It will be interesting to see if Sieger Suarez’s designs delve further into Miami’s emerging urban real estate markets. Their work has been invaluable in developing the beaches. It is a major benefit to have a firm such as Sieger Suarez designing many of the city’s most important projects. Just as one can recognize a person from their face one can do the same for a city with its skyline. In this sense one realizes the immense importance of excellence in architectural design, because ultimately it is the efforts of the architects that determine the beauty of our tropical metropolis’ skyline. Much is owed to Sieger Suarez Architectural Partnership, since their stunning designs have helped leave a great impression on all who bear witness to their designs and a permanent positive imprint on the city’s urban development history.

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Architect Profile: Kobi Karp

Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design (KKAID) have been in the business of designing living spaces for over two decades. Known for adaptability, the firm’s versatility is evident in their various projects. In terms of height, no other firm has such a drastic disparity between some projects versus others. KKAID is responsible for having designed the 1,200 foot tall Empire World Towers, which will, if finished, be among the tallest condominiums in the world and Miami’s first 1000 footers. Kobi Karp is helping lead the way in designing Uptown’s new leading high rises. The 649ft Chelsea, 473 ft Lima, and 437ft Park Lane tower are good examples. Their influence extends to Brickell Village as well with their 794ft Flatiron and 849ft 1101 Brickell Tower, which is a Leviev Boymelgreen project. Much of their bread and butter work is seen on Miami Beach and North Bay Village. By “bread and butter” I mean those projects which fill in the firm’s portfolio but don’t get much attention from the masses due to lack of height. The Lexi, Mei, Bel Aire are good examples. In analyzing some of the firm’s designs you will realize that there is a sense of dynamism that makes each design seem truly unique. It is hard t find clear parallels in their designs. This distinguishes KKAID from other firms which tend to develop a certain signature style that is incorporated into most of their designs. The implication is that KKAID executes the vision of the client rather than their own. It is hard to imagine such versatility in a vast portfolio such as theirs. They pull it off though. KKAID buildings have character, whether tall or small. In viewing the Bel Aire, for example, which is not altogether tall, the design still makes great use of glass, has interesting jagged façade patterns, and a highly distinguishable crown. All these elements come together to give the Bel Aire an air of importance that compensates for its low stature. The Lima building is my favorite Kobi Karp product. The structure has a multi-tiered terrace façade with parallel sharp vertical glass lines. The Flatiron, with its curvilinear design creates a unique modern adaptation of the New York City urban icon. Too bad it’s not likely to get built. The 1101 Brickell development, and to a lesser extent, the Flatiron resemble the Lipstick building in New York City. In comparing a rendering of both Miami developments to the Lipstick Building you’ll see that the resemblance is uncanny. Whether KKAID was inspired by the NYC icon is not known but, in my opinion, implied. The Aja and Element projects do resemble one another in slight ways but these similarities are to be expected and in no way compare to some Chad Oppenheim projects, which look like copies of one another (Element, Ice, and 10 Museum Park). Personally, although I am very much pleased with the notion of having two 1000 footers in Miami, I am not exactly satisfied with the Empire World Tower’s dark and plain design. I do, however, appreciate the three sky bridges that connect the two monolithic structures—something that is seen in Cesar Pelli’s Petronas Towers—, which again implies that KAID is outward looking when searching for design inspiration. Kobi Karp continues its legacy of adaptability and dynamism and the firm seems to draw inspiration from other national/international urban landmarks thus providing a global perspective that is incorporated into their designs.

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Architect Profile: Revuelta, Vega, and Leon Architects

RVL, as I will refer to Revuelta, Vega, and Leon architectural firm, has built and is building some of the most notable buildings in and around Miami. In observing their work, one finds that there are slight patterns in their designs, but their dynamism is evident as well. Their designs blend in well with the surroundings and have a wide height range. Projects like the Bath Club, Saxony, Porto Vita, Il Villagio, and City 24 are not tall but have plush designs that make the buildings appear important–as their developers surely intended. The taller new designs such as 900 and 600 Biscayne as well as Epic Residences are going to be situated in highly conspicuous lots, but that has not deterred Revuelta, Vega, and Leon from developing truly captivating designs with well thought out curves. Although not all the buildings have eye catching crowns, the 900 Biscayne, Jade Beach, Jade Brickell, and Il Villagio crowns are striking.

Many of the structures are curvilinear. RVL’s curvy designs give the impression of motion and expansion rather than the stiffness and containment exuded from more cube-like designs such as Oppenheim’s Element and Ten Museum Park projects. The Santa Maria and Bristol towers are fine examples of this curvilinear pattern. These two Ugo Colombo projects are not surprisingly heavy on glass. Ugo has tended to go with RVL in most of his major projects (Bristol, Santa Maria, Grovenor House, Epic Residences, and The Saxony). RVL is probably one of the best architectural firms at incorporating glass into their designs—maybe because of all the work they have done for Ugo Colombo. It also seems that RVL likes to blend in cubes with cylinders as is the case with both Neo Vertika and City 24 and to a lesser extent 900 Biscayne. The designs seem to draw inspiration from one another, a pattern which seems to represent a continuation and evolution of the firm’s architectural style. Take, for example, the Bristol, which has a basic cylindrical shape with a domed crown, and its neighbor just to the north, the subsequently built Santa Maria, which appears as if it is a newer version of the Bristol except stretched sideways to create cylindrical sides and a more flat front and rear façade. Still, the cylindrical pattern of the Bristol is kept intact. Across the bay, the Murano is another Bristol-like development that seems like a smart reinterpretation of the 41 story Brickell high rise. By reinterpretation I mean that the Murano fundamentally has a basic cylindrical design that instead of being stretched laterally is segmented into different cylindrical tiers or steps that gives a wrap around effect—in this building the glass again is preeminent. Other comparisons can be made, for example, the Jade Brickell development resembles, in it proportions, the Santa Maria. The primary difference is that the Santa Maria has more glass, cylindrical sides, and a semi-cylinder mostly glass crown, which also serves as a sky gym—whereas the Jade Brickell tower has sharp and jagged sides, imposing concrete vertical lines, and an unusual T-shaped steel crown. The buildings similar proportions in height and width, however, are undeniable—Jade Beach can also be considered to have similar proportions to these two projects as well but it not being topped off prevents the comparison from being complete. It is not clear whether or not other architectural firms draw inspiration from RVL, but Il Villagio’s several crowns resemble the subsequently built Murano Grande’s multiple crowns. This is not to say that Sieger-Suarez Architects were aware of the similarity, but it is there, and I can’t ignore it. The crowns are almost identical. The Epic Residences tower on the old Dupont property presents a sharp new curvilinear design for RVL—a design which is similar to their nearby riverfront Mint project. The parallels appear on the drafts but not yet in reality. Considering the firm’s track record of alluding to former project designs, it wouldn’t be surprising. Revuelta, Vega, and Leon designs represent some of the most stunning, high quality developments both in Miami and on Miami Beach. Their designs are refreshing, dynamic, and add a sense of motion to the city skyline that almost makes it seem animate.

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Architect Profile: Chap Oppenheim Architecture + Design

Award winning architect, Chad Oppenheim’s designs, although not limited to Miami, are mainly concentrated in and around Miami. His influence is being felt most in the Design District and Uptown. Visually, the Cornell graduate’s projects are sharp and stunning. There are patterns to the designs, however. Notice the Ten Museum Park tower and compare it to the Ice and Element designs (Element was formerly known as Ice 2). Both have high ceilings in each floor, are draped in glass and steel, and are vertically elongated with a basic glass cube shape. The cube seems to be the distinguishing characteristic of Chad Oppenheim designs. The Lynx development in the CBD, which is his most ambitious to date, maintains the cube-like design pattern except on different levels. In observing a few of his designs, you will be able to distinguish them as Oppenheim designs easily. Sky Residences also resembles the Ice and 10 Museum projects. Clearly, Oppenheim is not known for curvy, colorful designs. His are bleak, contemporary, and clean. The COR project in the Design District is a continuation of his rectangular cube designs but has a white concrete shell with what appear to be large port holes exposing a glass inner base. The crown of the tower has multiple symbols that resemble airplane propellers, thus giving the building a feeling of movement. The design is forward thinking and interesting but doesn’t indicate a departure from his former designs. His mid-rise Cube project is fittingly named after what seems to be his defining shape. Here he takes a multi dimensional approach to his cube designs and has cubes protruding from the buildings base. It makes for an abstract, futuristic look, but again does not break any new ground for the firm. The Cube development is heavy on steel, which also gives it an almost industrial/warehouse undertone. Oppenheim designs are easy to spot. Is this good or bad? Well, it depends. If you want versatility and dynamism in design, then it is bad. If you want steady characteristic designs, then it is not. There may be a change in store for his future projects. Maybe his designs will embrace curves. Maybe he will break the cube mold that seems to confine him his creativity, but as of right now, nothing has changed. We are left with the same. Through a developer standpoint, I don’t see why I would want my building looking like three or four others nearby. However, it may just be that his clients want what he offers. They know what to expect. His designs are simple and unobtrusive. As of right now, Lynx, the Ice development, and most of his Design District projects remain frozen. There is little activity on those lots. Certainly, it would be nice to see them go up, but progress is slow. It is not clear why. The architect designs, the developer executes. What are the implications of these issues? Is this pattern related to the architect? Some implications: his projects might not be an easy sell. Maybe they are too expensive to build and therefore difficult to finance. Maybe they are not appealing to buyers–this is doubtful. Or, maybe, he has not done business with the most adept developers. Regardless, the firm’s role in Miami’s growth is important and influential and not likely to diminish. Hopefully we’ll see some more dynamic designs come from his drawing boards and some more of his big projects get topped off.

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Architect Profile: Arquitectonica

Arquitectonica is arguably Miami’s most important and influential architectural firm. The firm, which started out in a small Miami studio with two architects (Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear) in 1977, has evolved into a major international firm with 11 offices around the globe.

The firm’s success is something Miami should be proud of. Consider that the city served as the creative laboratory through which this great awarding-winning firm has evolved. The firm is a veteran in the high density condo design market in Miami.

They designed Brickell icons such as the Imperial, the Atlantis, and the Palace. Although these buildings are no longer talked about, for many years they were the most outstanding structures Brickell had to offer and emblematic of Miami.

Arquitectonica’s latest Miami project designs are powerful and ambitious. Many of them have several buildings (Icon Brickell,  Latitude, Axis and Bentley to name a few). the Related Group has just commissioned them to design Icon Bay. They did work on Icon Puerto Vallarta.

Hyperion Development has taken a liking to their work (Marina Blue and Blue on the Bay) having their projects exclusively designed by them.

In analyzing their architectural corpus you will find allusions to some of their past designs; animated and lively expressions. However, for the most part, in considering new projects such as the Hyperion developments, Icon Brickell and South Beach, Marquis, Infinity, and Axis, one must conclude that their vision of Miami is looking forward.

A glimpse of what will be a city packed with glassy, sleek, soaring skyscrapers crammed amid palm trees and traffic. One finds comfort in knowing that much of the Miami skyline is changing with strokes of Arquitectonica’s genius.

Developers in Hong Kong have begun to contract their work; another clear parallel between the two sub-tropical boomtowns. Arquitectonica is not inexpensive to employ. It is no coincidence that the wealthiest and most powerful developers often choose them. Development moguls know what works well and pay the high price, accordingly. As far as they are concerned, contracting Architectonica to do their design work preserves their legacy, protects their investment, and almost ensures visual success.

For Miamians, who bear witness to their city’s preposterous growth, Architectonica is an indelible part of their history.

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Architect Profile: Zyscovich, Inc.

Mr. Zyscovich’s firm is forward thinking and intertwined with Miami’s aesthetic future. Zyscovich projects are becoming synonymous with the visual impression Miami leaves those who witness the urban landscape. This is certainly the case in South Beach where Zyscovich has designed the Lincoln Center, Anchor Shops, 500 Block of Collins, St. Moritz, and Carlyle, but Zyscovich’s influence is certainly not limited to the beach and is in fact spreading throughout downtown. His projects have sharp lines and abstract shapes. His designs are futuristic in that they do not allude to past architectural trends, at least not blatantly. From the drawing boards of his firm to the streets of the city, Zyscovich makes history happen.

Their work reflects Miami’s vibrant, cultural, and artistic social fabric: colorful, diverse, and exciting. Bernard Zyscovich’s firm’s portfolio is wide ranging, covering everything from commercial developments and interior design work to airport terminals and residential high rises. Zyscovich’s influence on the city facade is most felt in his mid to low rise developments. His low to mid rise designs capture the essence of the neighborhoods they standin and blend well with the streetscape. Interestingly, his designs standout without becoming a distraction. Due to the sharp and stylish lines of this firm’s work, designs lend themselves well to being illuminated at night, which adds life and energy to the cityscape. The 500 block of Collins and the Lincoln Center are two fine examples of his illuminated work. Additionally, his buildings tend to be intricate, with grids and criss-crossing beams in contrast with bleak concrete surfaces. Materials like glass and steel are carefully balanced and incorporated into his midrise work, which tends to be more intricate than their high rise counterparts. Currently, Zyscovich high rise projects are simple and contemporary. They aren’t similar in design daring to their mid to low rise projects. The Flamingo, as seen on the right, incorporates night illumination on its distinct crown giving the building an iconic flair.

Villa Magna and Star Lofts also represent a departure from the abstract patterns of the mid rise projects and give way to more direct vertical and horizontal lines. Nevertheless, Z Inc.’s high rise work is not currently extensive and is probably going to evolve into more elaborate designs. Certainly, playing witness to this evolution is just another benefit for all who reside in Miami.

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Architect Profile: Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolf and Assoc.

NBWW, as I shall refer to Nichols Brosh Wurst Wolf and Associates, formerly (Nichols Brosch Sandoval and Assoc.) is a uniquely Floridian architectural firm that specializes in hotel architecture, although the firm has delved quite deeply, as of late, into high density residential projects and dabbled in commercial as well. As Floridian as their visual flavor may be, their work is not limited to the sub-tropical peninsula. Their main work has concentrated on Miami where they have designed hotels, condominium towers, and office buildings alike. Some of their more high profile hotel designs include the Ritz-Carlton South Beach and Coconut Grove, The Loews Hotel South Beach, Westin Diplomat Towers in Hallandale, and Regent Bal Harbour. Their tallest condominium design has been the Metropolitan project with its 76 floor Met 3 tower. The Terra Group’s Quantum on the Bay development in Uptown (51 and 44floors ) has also been one of their taller designs. The Terra Group originally contracted them to design the Metropolis Towers at Dadeland as well. Jorge Perez of the Related Group’s Plaza on Brickell, although not as tall as Met 3, will be one of the most standout developments on Brickell Avenue. Another notable high rise design from NBWW is the Fontainebleau II and III residential towers at 36 and 18 floors respectively. In analyzing their portfolio, one finds that NBWW works well at developing retro-modern designs. That is forward-thinking designs that are influenced by past architectural trends. The Loews and Fontainebleau’s design is modern and blends in well with the surrounding historic Art Deco architecture. Their designs range from extremely glassy (Fontainebleau II and II, and The Regent) to a combination of glass and concrete (Quantum, Ritz Coconut Grove). The concrete in the designs is usually offset by sleek purposeful curves that create an impression of movement and flow. Sharp lines blend in with curves in NBWW buildings. The Midtown Four project is somewhat of a departure from their curvilinear designs. The object, which appears as a slimmer, more rectangular version of the Mellon Financial Center, is quite plain with its straight lines. The Plaza on Brickell, resembles a more slender version of the Ritz Coconut Grove minus the dominating green crowns. Both projects are two tower developments, share similar glass concrete patters, vertical lines, and green glass. Buyers in NBWW-designed buildings will probably feel like they’re living in a world class resort. The level of experience in designing them will undoubtedly leave an imprint on all their designs. This is certainly not bad for the owner of a unit in an NBWW designed building; unless you consider an atmosphere of leisurely luxury to be bad.

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